Shame's Guilt Disproved

Critical Quarterly 50 (4):65-72 (2008)
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The contemporary consensus on shame is pessimistic. Three main reasons, all connected with the alleged fact that, in shame, you allow yourself to become the victim of external pressures, appear to motivate this conclusion. First, shame is said to be the emotion of social sanction: when you feel shame, you submit to the judgements of others. Second, shame is supposed to be triggered by the way you look in the eyes of others. Thirdly, and as a result, shame allegedly motivates at best withdrawal from others, at worse violence towards them. In this paper, we scrutinize these claims and argue that, while each of them contains a grain of truth, they fail to justify shame’s bad reputation.

Author Profiles

Fabrice Teroni
University of Geneva
Julien Deonna
University of Geneva


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